That time of year is fast approaching. Any prospective medical school applicant knows what time I’m referring to: summer, which signals the opening of the medical school application portals and the start of the road to acceptance. This is an exciting moment. If you are reading this post during the process of planning for application season, start by doing one thing: commend yourself. As cliché as this phrase is, give yourself a pat on the back – because you have already endured and achieved a great deal, and that is something to be applauded. Now it is time to capitalize on all the hard work you have done, cash in on all the time you have invested. A good road map for the application process and a good plan of attack will help you do just that. Here’s what to expect.
The Primary Application
Most allopathic U.S. Medical schools (schools at which you earn a MD degree) use AMCAS (American Medical College Application Service) as their primary application service, with the exception of seven state medical schools in Texas and one in New York. The AMCAS application for the 2018-2019 cycle opens May 2nd. This is the date on which you can start filling out the application with your own information. The application cannot be submitted to schools until June 1st, so you have about one month to work on it. As you have likely heard many times before, apply as early as you can in the application process! This is because medical schools use rolling admissions, meaning they review applications chronologically as they arrive. The earlier in the cycle you submit, the more spots will be available and the better chance you will have of acceptance (and vice versa). So don’t wait, be early!
In this post I won’t go into the details of the AMCAS application itself, but from May to early June is when you will enter all your information and materials into the application. Another step you will take at this time is to decide how many and which schools to apply to. This is a nuanced and important decision. If smart decisions are not made regarding the number of programs and which programs to apply to, with a strategic spread based on program characteristics, your countless hours of hard work on the application may go to waste. Consider our application consulting services to help with this step, as well as any component of creating or strengthening your application.
The last thing to consider here are the deadlines for the primary application for different programs. All programs differ, but most deadlines fall between September and December. The AAMC website provides a list of all programs and their respective deadlines. They also have a service call MSAR (Medical School Admission Requirements) which provides detailed admissions info for each program. MSAR can also be very useful when selecting programs to apply to, and is a good resource to consider.
The Secondary Application
Medical schools begin to review applications after June 30th. If you submitted your primary in June, shortly after June 30thyou should expect to start receiving secondary applications. Please see our prior post which discusses in detail the secondary application process. In short, secondary apps will be a series of essays or short answer questions asking you to elaborate on why you are a good fit for that particular program. Expect to receive a large number of secondaries during the summer. Use the same principle I outlined above for the primary app: do them as soon as possible! Do not compromise quality for speed, but try to get them done within about one week. Again, the sooner they are sent back, the sooner the interview invites will roll in!
After tackling the process of secondaries, you are nearing the promised land. You have surmounted most of the grunt work of the application process. Now comes the fun: interview season. It is a great opportunity to travel, get to know programs and cities you are considering, and showcase your personality and strengths as an applicant. Some interviews can start as early as September, but the bulk of early interviews will occur in October. The interview season then runs throughout the winter and spring, and later interviews can occur as late as April. Schools will contact you with possible dates, and you will be able to arrange your interviews based on your availability. Enjoy this process—it really is a lot of fun! See our prior MSI content on details of the interview process as well as our services which can help you knock your interviews of out the park.
The Final Step – Acceptance!
This is of course the mountain top, the peak you have been striving for. It will mark the culmination of years of hard work. I can certainly say that I will never forget the moment I was accepted to medical school. The feeling of pure joy, as well as sheer relief,was as impressive as I had expected. It was one of the highlights of my college experience, and I cherish that feeling to this day. You will get there soon enough! Here’s how the last steps will go down.
After October 15th, medical schools begin sending acceptance letters.You may be contacted any time thereafter, so early applicants may receive acceptances in late October. Applicants can hold multiple acceptances until at least April 30th. Per the most updated information provided by AMCAS, after April 30theach program will use school-specific procedures regarding acceptance deadlines. The language on their website is nebulous, but in essence applicants will likely be required to choose one program or respond to all acceptance offers shortly after April 30th.
Another key component to take into account is the wait list. Some schools may respond after an interview stating that you have not been accepted but rather placed on the waitlist. Though not the goal, being placed on the waitlist can lead to a positive outcome. Waitlist acceptances can occur any time during the application season, but do not be surprised if they occur late. After April 30th, students will have to give up their multiple acceptances in favor of one, so it is very plausible to receive an admission off the waitlist after this time. I myself was accepted to a school from the waitlist in May, so this can certainly happen. You won’t have any control over the wait list process, but it is something to keep in mind!
Those are the nuts and bolts of how the application timeline will play out. Having this road map in mind will be helpful in planning your work, travel, interview preparation, etc. during the whole process. If you have already reached this point, you have achieved a great deal. As an avid basketball player, I love sports analogies. You’ve put in the time in the gym—now it’s just time to go out on the field and get a win. Go get ‘em!